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Alex Wilshaw
PhD student
St John's College
Dept. of Archaeology & Anthropology
University of Cambridge


Project Supervisor Funding
An investigation into the LSA of the Nakuru-Naivasha Basin and surround, Central Rift Valley, Kenya: Technological classifications and population considerations Marta Mirazon Lahr St John's College PhD Scholarship

The Late Stone Age (LSA) of East Africa is a diverse period of recent human prehistory. Despite the temporal proximity to today, these prehistoric people and their technological traditions are still poorly described and little understood. The Nakuru-Naivasha Basin, Kenya, has the best documented examples of the East African LSA (Eburran, nee Kenya Capsian), the diversity of which is manifested in an abundance of archaeological sites that show a confusing complexity of unexplained technological variation. Research stagnated at the end of the 1980's, after the Kenya Capsian classification system (phases A-E) was replaced with the Eburran (phases I-V) which confined the Nakuru-Naivasha industry to within 25 km of Mount Eburru. Modern research techniques within a novel research paradigm are applied to revitalise the study of this important prehistoric period. Firstly, historically collected evidence which lacks vital research information is modernised using archival investigation and mapping software. Secondly, the temporal and spatial variation of lithic artefacts and sites (12.5-2.5 kya) are described using univariate statistical analyses of attributes taken from a diverse sample of 36 LSA occurrences from 30 sites (2200 lithic tools and 220 cores); 6 further sites are included as a comparative framework of other localised technological traditions (SPN, Elmenteitan and Lukenya Hill). Thirdly, the relationship between the LSA technology and the shifting Holocene palaeo-environment is examined using multivariate statistics. Finally, technological characteristics that exhibit little ecological plasticity are used in a cultural cladistic analysis to infer information about prehistoric populations. Geometric microlith and core sizes show high levels of environmental plasticity (72.7% and 80.4%), and should not be used to define industrial boundaries in this area; as a result, the Eburran classification system is challenged. Likewise, the industry extends outside of the imposed 25 km boundary. It is argued that the original name of Kenya Capsian should be reinstated for this LSA industry, but not the phases defined within it. Instead, a clade based system is suggested, which is able to cope with the variation exhibited by the technology until a comprehensive classification system can be created; this will only be possible with greater research investment and novel evidence. Ultimately, the prehistoric people of the Kenya Capsian exhibit similar population patterns to the tribal system in Kenya today, which would explain why the LSA is so beautifully diverse and complex in this area.

I am also a technical illustrator of archaeological materials






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